Rev. Yushi Mukojima arrived at the Mountain View Buddhist Temple just one day after last year's annual Obon Festival wrapped up.
This year's Obon Festival, which ran Saturday and Sunday, July 19-20 at the Mountain View Buddhist Temple, will be Mukojima's first at the temple. To him, Obon serves as both a festive occasion and a time for reflection.
"We are reminded of the impermanence of life," Mukojima said.
The festival celebrates ancestors and their contributions toward ensuring the well-being of the community and features music, dance and plenty of food. Festival organizers say the Mountain View event is among the most popular Obon festivals on the Peninsula and estimate that 5,000 to 10,000 people will show up.
Festival co-chairs Ron Murata and Russ Nakano said the festival is geared to all ages and faiths.
"I think Mountain View goes all out," Nakano said. "That's why so many people come through."
According to tradition, Buddhist temples seek to hold Obon festivals as close to the middle of July as possible. However, dates get shifted a bit as temples coordinate their events to avoid conflicting with other Obon festivals in the area.
One of the main draws to Mountain View's Obon festival, according to Murata and Nakano, is its food. The festival offers everything from traditional Japanese dishes to Polish sausage. Perhaps the most popular item sold is the shaved ice, but that is not the only item attendees enjoy.
"The steak kebabs are divine. They're overpriced, but divine," said Brian Lee, who was attending a recent practice session for the event's Bon Odori dance.
For Murata, the most significant component of Mountain View's Obon festival isn't the cuisine offered.
"The highlight of the weekend is the dancing," Murata said.
Bon Odori dancing takes place on a wooden stage in the temple's parking lot on Sunday night. Instructor Marilyn Ozawa, who says that this is her 43rd year coordinating the dance, held four practices over the past two weeks. Even those who did not attend the practices are encouraged to participate, she said.
"If we had no spectators and all dancers, that would be great," Ozawa said.
Taiko drumming performances, which also take place on Sunday, are another popular part of the festival, with a performance by local group Jun Daiko. In addition, the festival will host children's hands-on cultural activities, games and a jazz quartet performance.
Organizers said they consider the festival to be the largest fundraiser of the year for the temple. Mukojima said that revenue the event generates could possibly go to renovations of the temple and nearby classrooms in the near future.
"I want the people to know that Obon is a wonderful opportunity for people to realize how wonderful it is to live in this moment," Mukojima said.
Many participants look forward to the event as a way for the community to achieve solidarity.
"I like that it brings people together," said Bon Odori dancer Justin Xie.